Martech Interview with Chief Operating Officer, Mitto – Ilja Gorelik

Ilja Gorelik, Chief Operating Officer at Mitto talks about the power of messaging communications to drive greater customer engagement for marketers.


In a digital-first era, the pressure is on for brands to communicate effectively with their customers on the channels they want, when they
want and with messages, they resonate with.

1. Tell us about Mitto and its services?
At Mitto, we’re on a mission to deliver reliable, high-quality communications between businesses and their customers, every time.
Our company was founded in 2013 with the specific aim of building a state-of-the-art Application-to-Person (A2P) SMS messaging platform, unrivaled in reliability, that could support the requirements of a new wave of A2P services. As the demand grew for enablement of omnichannel communications capabilities, we expanded our portfolio beyond SMS to now include voice, chat bots, all major chat apps (WhatsApp, Viber, Facebook Messenger, etc.), Google Business Messaging, RCS, myriad CRM and marketing platform integrations and, most recently, pre-built tools for bulk campaigns and conversational support chats.
Simply put, we make communication happen…

2. How are Mitto services enhancing every interaction?
Global brands have global customers, each of which interacts with brands slightly differently. Some prefer to interact with brands on SMS, some on chat apps like WhatsApp and Viber. Some don’t have a preference; they want the ability to engage with a brand on whatever channel is most effective at that moment in time.
We’ve done a lot of consumer research over the past tumultuous year, seeking to gain a better understanding of how people want brands to interact with them and vice versa. We’ve found that:
Americans want brands to take action on social justice matters — Just after the Black Lives Matter movement took hold last summer, 73% of Americans said it is important that BLM-related statements they receive from brands, nonprofits, and other organizations, are not only empathetic, but are followed by measurable action
Channel preferences range by country — American consumers use chat apps to engage with brands much less than in other countries: over 80% of consumers in China, Brazil, India and Nigeria use chat apps for brand engagement, significantly higher than in the U.S. (51%),
Good customer support is an effective marketing strategy — American consumers said they are more likely to talk publicly about ‘good’ support experiences than ‘poor’ ones — 65% compared to 29%.
What all of this reveals is that customer engagement can be challenging and complex in 2021. There is no single channel to reach every customer, there is no perfect message and customers’ expectations for brands are sky high.
Mitto’s services help brands navigate this complexity. Through its global partnerships with mobile network operators and its advanced routing capabilities, Mitto gives brands the flexibility to meet customers wherever they are with the speed and agility they require today. Mitto supports a wide range of channels — SMS, all major chat apps, Google Business — with a range of solutions to help brand marketers manage individual campaigns across multiple channels within a few clicks, making their lives easier and their campaigns more effective.

3. What are your views on the technology enhancement in the messaging arena?
New messaging channels will always be emerging. While I don’t have a crystal ball as to which the next big messaging channel will be, I do know it’s an exciting opportunity for marketers to once again reach their customers at the channel they feel most comfortable communicating on.
As marketers add new digital channels, I am more concerned with educating on the importance of taking an omnichannel, not multichannel approach. Brands need to speak to customers wherever they are – be it SMS, Chat Apps or other – with a single consistent voice, otherwise they risk losing them and their revenue. Drawing multiple digital channels seamlessly together will become a foundational element to unify customers’ touch points across all channels.

4. In what way did AI enhance Mitto services?
Delivery rates often plague brand marketers, many of whom pay for messages that are never delivered to customers. Mitto guarantees messages will be delivered via our AI-powered routing platform.
Our customers’ traffic runs through a self-adjusting carrier-grade routing platform that continuously checks possible routes, hundreds at a time, before choosing the optimal path. Leveraging AI, traffic is identified by type and prioritized for the best delivery, speed and cost effectiveness by route.
Our AI routing platform essentially automatically adjusts for the optimal ratio between quality and cost and constantly improves with new inputs that come from our own Real Time Monitoring system that sends test SMS to a network of mobile devices to simulate the best routes and delivery rates in real-life scenarios. By doing this, we can reach and change a route before a customer engagement can be affected. AI powers all of this.

5. What inspired you to start Mitto?
The idea for Mitto came to me in 2012. Andrea Giacomini, one of our co-founders, asked if I could build an innovative messaging platform that would be unique and compete on the wholesale market. I’m always up for a challenge, so of course I said yes and got to work.
Upon diving into the market, it became apparent the room for growth was immense. There were many players in the field, but the arena was constantly evolving. There was room for us to carve a space for our business model.
The immediate short-term goal was to design the messaging platform to be as efficient as possible. We were a lean operation, and we needed innovative technology that could carry its own. As time went on, the company grew, as did the market. We’ve had to adapt to many new regulations, technologies, and audiences.

6. Why is communication important between a business and a customer?
A business cannot attract and retain a customer if that customer doesn’t have positive experiences with the brand. Brand loyalty, conversions, evangelism, repeat purchases…none of these actions that enable a brand to grow are possible with unhappy customers.
While the pandemic all but eliminated in-person communication between the two, the slow decline of brick-and-mortar has been in effect for well over a decade, meaning the vast majority of touchpoints between a business and its customer happen digitally. And we’ve all encountered less-than-ideal digital communications between colleagues, friends and/or family to understand how fragile and challenging it is to communicate in a wide array of digital channels.
For brands today, ensuring they’re “getting it right” with their digital customer communications is vital: it’s more or less the only way in which the two interact these days and, as recent research we conducted shows, nearly ¾ of Americans will stop patronizing a brand if they receive as little as three poor support experiences.

In a digital-first era, the pressure is on for brands to communicate effectively with their customers on the channels they want, when they want and with messages they resonate with.

Today’s consumers also demand a lot from brands beyond product and service communications; they want transparency, they want brands to vocalize what they stand for and they want to see real action taken around social justice issues.
Any missteps in those communications can very quickly erode brand loyalty.

7. What is your take on the effect of Covid-19 leading to communication gap?
Major global crises like the Covid-19 pandemic tend to have a severe impact on communications top to bottom, including between brands and their consumers who were, at the start, wondering how their favorite businesses were responding. Managing that perfectly was nearly impossible, though Mitto surveyed 7,000 consumers in seven countries last May, near the start of the pandemic, about how they felt brands handled communicating during those early days.
Overall, they were quite impressed: 77% said that the messages they received from brands over the past few weeks have made them feel like brands care about their well being and 30% said that brands made them feel less anxious about the global coronavirus pandemic. But over 40% also indicated they were ready to hear from brands about topics unrelated to COVID-19, rather than next week, next month or later this year. To their credit, after the initial wave of Covid-related communications, brands pivoted towards their standard-fare communications and have effectively been doing so since.
While the pandemic did initially lead to a communication gap as brands, justifiably, struggled to respond, the shift to mostly digital communications tools has also accelerated innovation (product and strategic) within the industry, forcing brand marketers to be more creative and causing a slew of new technologies to come to market to meet this new digital demand.

8. What advice would you like to give to the upcoming startups in terms of Communication?
Understand and realize not all customers are the same. What may work in one part of the world may fail miserably in another, even among similar demographics. Eastern Europe, for example, is bullish on Viber, while in much of Asia WhatsApp and WeChat dominate. In the U.S., Facebook Messenger and SMS rule and in India, it’s Telegram and WhatsApp.
Attempting to lump too many customers or prospects into one single communications bucket can be a fool’s errand. Know your customers’ preferences, habits and communications channels before embarking on a campaign.

9. With the phase shift to online, what do you think are the transitory v/s permanent changes from the same?
Over the past year-plus, businesses have been forced to invest resources into their digital offerings and communications, and most have been quite successful in doing so. They were forced to be creative, experimental, flexible, agile and better understand their customers’ habits and behaviors when face-to-face interaction wasn’t possible.
These trends were accelerated by the pandemic-induced shift online but should not be relegated solely to this past year. Businesses should continue these practices moving forward, and I fully expect them to give all signs indicating that many of these behavioral shifts are permanent.

10. How does your team inspire you?
I am constantly inspired by the Mitto team in a few ways. First , they work together to share insights and knowledge to help one another grow. There is a constant thirst to learn and share those learnings with colleagues. Secondly, they are passionate about their work and love brainstorming on new creative ways to apply our technology, often coming with ideas I’d never thought of. Third, they are tremendous problem solvers, always looking for a solution vs. presenting problems. And finally, I’m inspired by their dedication to getting things done. Deadlines are not taken lightly by this team and it’s always amazing to me to see the team’s high output. No matter what challenge they face, they execute.

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Ilja Gorelik co-founded Mitto in 2013 and now oversees the company’s technology operations across routing, development, support, and carrier relations. Prior to launching Mitto, Gorelik contributed to the success of several disruptive telecom and social startups where he leveraged his vast knowledge in telecommunications and technical product development.

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